Social media can be part of your PR plan.
From writing guest content to leveraging hashtags, there are several ways businesses can use social media as part of their public relations strategy. — Getty Images/grinvalds

Social media and public relations can no longer be considered mutually exclusive; they are now inextricably linked. This shift has made public relations more accessible for small businesses and others who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to pay for PR.

Here are six ways you can utilize social media for public relations:

Use social sharing in press releases

One of the easiest ways to incorporate social media into your PR strategy is by adding social sharing buttons to your press releases. This lets your customers and media outlets share your press releases easily.

However, just adding social sharing buttons isn’t enough. You also want to consider how your press release will look when it shows up on social media networks. A good way to do this is by writing a short blog post or social media post that links back to your press release.

You can also embed social media links within your press release whenever appropriate. This is a good way to increase engagement among anyone reading.

Offer to be a guest contributor

One of the best ways to generate some buzz for your business and build authority in your industry is by offering to guest post on well-known media outlets. This allows you to share your knowledge with a new audience and receive backlinks to your site.

It’s a good idea to start building relationships with journalists and popular media outlets. When you start building these professional relationships, you increase your odds of getting the right kind of media exposure.

Be conversational and focus on community

One of the biggest benefits of social media is that it allows you to have conversations with your customers and build a sense of community. When you create a community, your customers become advocates for your business and spread the word about your brand.

You can do this by creating and sharing useful content with members of your audience and then engaging with them when they comment. Figure out when your audience is the most engaged and then plan your posting schedule and community engagement around those times.

[Read more: Don’t Be on Every Social Media Network, Here’s What to Do Instead]

Social media and public relations can no longer be considered mutually exclusive; they are now inextricably linked.

Leverage hashtags for PR campaigns

Hashtags are used to follow trending topics and conversations online and, when used strategically, can be a great way to promote your company. Coming up with a branded hashtag will allow you to track customer engagement, monitor the overall campaign reach and interact with your customers.

The important thing to remember about hashtags is that they need to be memorable and relevant. Don’t choose a hashtag that is clever or will be hard to remember.

Have a crisis management plan in place

The list of ways that social media benefits businesses is endless, but one of the downsides is that negative publicity can spread quickly. If a negative encounter with a customer gains traction online, it can quickly spiral out of control and generate a lot of bad press for your business.

It’s important to recognize that this could happen and have a crisis management plan in place. Have a plan for how you will get ahead of any negative publicity so you can maintain your company’s positive online reputation.

Be consistent about showing up

If you want social media to become an important element of your overall PR strategy, then you have to be consistent with it. Make sure you post on a regular basis and respond to customer comments as quickly as possible.

Building your business’s social media following may happen slowly at first, but if you stay consistent and stick with it, it will continue to grow over time.

[Read more: Public Relations Guide for Small Businesses]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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